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IfSAR data detects horizontal earthquake

US: Most earthquakes occur at near-vertical faults, such as the strike-slip San Andreas Fault or the thrust fault that caused the 2011 Japan earthquake. The Kohat Plateau earthquake in 1992 occurred on a horizontal fault — something that scientists have rarely, if ever, seen before, scientists at University of Colorado, Boulder, claimed. Their findings will appear in the February issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.
They used interferometric synthetic aperture radar (IfSAR), a type of satellite data, to verify the fact. This type of radar uses microwaves to map a section of the earth’s surface at different times (in this case, the images were taken nearly 20 years apart) and then compares the two maps to very accurately measure seismic deformation and movement in the area.
In 1992, the city of Kohat, Pakistan, faced magnitude-6.0 earthquake, which moved a 30-square-mile (80-square-kilometer) swath of land one foot (30 centimetres) horizontally in a split second, levelling buildings and killing more than 200 people.
To understand what happened at Kohat, you need to picture a waterbed, Bilham, a geophysicist at the University of Colorado at Boulder explained. If the waterbed is sitting on concrete, it’s nearly impossible to push. But if you put the waterbed on a slippery surface — say, an ice rink — it becomes a little easier to move. It may crumple up at one end, and some patches may get a little stuck, but if you push slowly and surely, you can move the waterbed.
Now imagine that waterbed is the Kohat Plateau, a 3,800-square-mile (10,000-square-km) slab of earth that lies just southwest of the Himalayas. As the Eurasian plate pushes the plateau southward, it slides along (or creeps) on its own sort of ice rink, a lubricating layer of salt separating the plateau from the underlying layer of rock.
The Kohat Plateau is creeping south at a speed of about 1 to 2 millimetres per year, Bilham said. Over the course of about 200 years, patches of the plateau can build up enough stress to cause localized earthquakes, like the one in 1992.
Over time, the plateau’s movement is much like a caterpillar’s crawl — a combination of slow gliding and sudden jerks.
This type of earthquake will likely become more frequent in the region, Bilham said, as the plateau slowly squeezes out its underlying layer of lubricant. Although Bilham thinks this layer is likely salt, he says no one will know for sure until scientists drill below the plateau to take samples. But whatever it turns out to be, residents of the Kohat Plateau should hold on tight.
Source: OurAmazingPlanet